Genocide, the Border, and Water


Water station operated and maintained in the Sonoran Desert by Human Borders.
Pima County, Arizona.

Genocide and water.

Thinking about aspects of genocide and efforts to eliminate groups of people who get in the way of governments and their ambitions. 

An important but hidden issue behind NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] was that displacing indigenous groups in Mexico would open up access to aquifers under their lands. 

One of the ways of controlling those then displaced people attempting to go North, by design, was and remains funneling those people into the Sonoran Desert, an area notably devoid of water. 

Attempting to aid the displaced people by putting out water for them is a crime in some areas but not in others.

The Sonoran Desert has become a vast cemetery for those displaced persons who had no access to water. 

On the last and most important day of Passover, Jesus stood up in the Temple and shouted, “Come over to me and I will give you living water!” Even the Temple police began to desert, joining Jesus.

The Pharisees, who were collaborating with Rome, began to quake.


Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes

Orientación
La orientación de la plataforma del Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes está dirigida hacia la justicia en lugar de cualquier conveniencia política.

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Esta es la creencia de aquellos que planteamos en esta plataforma que la justicia puede hacerse únicamente cuando la injusticia del sistema actual es completamente y cuidadosamente expuesta. Nosotros enfatizamos que debemos trabajar en conjunto con metas claramente definidas. Estas metas están a continuación detalladas en un plan de rectificación.

Preámbulo
La Declaración de Independencia de los Estados Unidos, la Constitución de los Estados Unidos, la Suprema Corte de los Estados Unidos y la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas nos guían en nuestra forma de pensar sobre los sistemas que van en contra de la marginación, separación y opresión de los pueblos.

La Declaración de Independencia de los Estados Unidos dice que parte de lo que significa ser libre es la capacidad de buscar “vida, libertad y felicidad.” La Declaración de Independencia pone en claro que los gobiernos solo existen para proteger los derechos inherentes otorgados por Dios a las personas. Esto además dice que la autoridad de los gobiernos únicamente deriva del consentimiento de aquellos que están siendo gobernados.

La 14ª Enmienda a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos establece “la igualdad de protección bajo la ley.” En la interpretación de este principio, la Suprema Corte de los Estados Unidos ha dicho que “la enmienda incapacita al Estado de privar inmerecidamente a un ciudadano de los Estados Unidos, a cualquier persona sin importar quien sea, de vida, libertad o propiedad sin un debido proceso legal, o de negarle a esta persona la igualdad de protección por las leyes del Estado… [Esto incumbe a] todas aquellas personas quienes pudieran estar dentro de esta jurisdicción.”

En 1948, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas, en su Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, clarificó que esto significa hablar de libertad y derechos inherentes en el mundo moderno. En particular, las Naciones Unidas señalan que esto pudiera no pasar si nosotros viviéramos juntos “en un espíritu de hermandad.” Nadie, esto dice, “deberá ser sometido en esclavitud o servidumbre.” Nadie deberá ser “sometido a tratamiento de crueldad, inhumanidad, degradación o castigo.” Nadie deberá ser “sometido a arresto arbitrario, detención o exilio.” Nadie deberá ser “arbitrariamente privado de su propiedad.”

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

La Declaración de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas además enfatizó en qué consiste la libertad. Esta consiste en el derecho de una persona a “dejar cualquier país, incluido el propio y regresar a su país,” el “derecho a la nacionalidad,” “el derecho de no ser arbitrariamente privado de su nacionalidad o de negarle el derecho de cambiar su nacionalidad,” el derecho “a poseer su propiedad solo o en asociación con otras personas,” el “derecho de tomar parte en el gobierno de su país,” “el derecho a los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales indispensables para su dignidad y el libre desarrollo de su personalidad.”

 

 

Cada uno, las Naciones Unidas prosigue, tiene el derecho a “trabajar, a libre opción de empleo, a justas y favorables condiciones de trabajo y a protección contra desempleo,” el derecho a “pago equitativo por trabajo equitativo” y a una “justa y favorable remuneración para él y su familia.” Cada uno, tiene “el derecho a formar y unirse a sindicatos para la protección de sus intereses.”

En 2006, reconociendo “la urgente necesidad a respetar y promover los derechos inherentes de las personas indígenas los cuales derivan de… sus tierras, territorios y recursos,” las Naciones Unidas adoptaron una Declaración Especial de los Derechos de las Personas Indígenas. Esta estipuló que las personas indígenas tienen derechos “colectivos” como también individuales para el pleno disfrute de “la ley internacional de los derechos humanos” incluyendo el “derecho a la autodeterminación,” el individual “derecho a la nacionalidad,” y el derecho a “vivir en libertad, paz y seguridad como personas distintivas.”

Para que eso finalice, los miembros del Estado “proveerán de mecanismos efectivos para su prevención, y de arreglos para “cualquier acción la cual tenga el efecto de privarlos de su integridad como personas distintivas” o “despojarlos de sus tierras, territorios o recursos.” Más adelante, esta dice que “ninguna relocación tomará lugar sin el libre, previo e informado consentimiento de las personas indígenas involucradas y después de acordar en una justa y equitativa compensación y, donde sea posible con la opción de regresar.”

Esto además dice “que las personas indígenas tienen el derecho a participar en la toma de decisiones en cuestiones que pudieran afectar sus derechos” y que cuando ellos hayan sido “privados de sus conceptos de subsistencia y desarrollo [ellos] están titulados a un justo y equitativo arreglo.”

Ellos tienen el “derecho a mantener y a fortalecer su propia relación espiritual con sus propias costumbres y con las tierras, territorios, aguas, costas marinas y otros recursos que han usado y poseído y de defender sus responsabilidades para futuras generaciones en este ámbito.” Finalmente, esta Declaración establece que todas estas especificaciones no son más que los “estándares mínimos”.

Cuando nosotros consideramos migración no autorizada a través de las especificaciones de estas prescripciones para “vivir en hermandad,” nosotros vemos que los derechos humanos básicos están siendo totalmente negados en cada ocasión. Nosotros enfatizamos en que las negaciones de estos derechos son además contrarias a la acordada ley internacional.

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Existe una conclusión entre historiadores quienes analizan las políticas económicas desde la perspectiva de la gente pobre que el Tratado Norteamericano de Libre Comercio (TLNC) ha sido el principal factor de empuje detrás de la migración no autorizada de gente pobre e indígenas de Latinoamérica a los Estados Unidos. Este acuerdo por sí mismo admite que pequeños y tradicionales agricultores en México, por ejemplo, tuvieron que ser sujetos a competencia por corporaciones de granjas fuertemente subsidiadas en los Estados Unidos. Este admite que alzando las tarifas que las corporaciones de Estados Unidos previamente habían pagado en orden de transportar sus productos a México por ejemplo, y quitando los apoyos que el gobierno mexicano había ofrecido por largo tiempo a los agricultores tradicionales cuando estos rechazaron el artículo 27 de la Constitución Mexicana, que un gran número de estos agricultores serían forzados a abandonar sus tierras para emigrar.

Posteriores tratados de libre comercio, incluyendo el Tratado de Libre Comercio de Centro América (CAFTA), el Libre Tratado de China, y otros han tenido efectos similares. En octubre del 2011, el Presidente Barack Obama firmó adicionales tratados de libre comercio con Perú, Colombia y Corea del Sur. Debemos anticipar que nuevos tratados de libre comercio tendrán las mismas consecuencias de los anteriores principalmente creando más desplazamientos de gente y empujandolos a emigrar. Además notamos que los desplazamientos causados por tratados de libre comercio en una escala más pequeña tomarán lugar dentro de los Estados Unidos. La devastación de la industria textil de Alabama es un ejemplo de esta situación.

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Una consecuencia a la firma del Tratado Norteamericano de Libre Comercio (TNLC) en 1992 fue la militarización de la frontera Estados Unidos – México. A la fecha, aproximadamente 5000 hombres, mujeres, niños y bebés han muerto como resultado de intentar cruzar esta frontera.

La militarización dió lugar a la prioridad de bloquear las áreas urbanas a lo largo de la frontera las cuales eran los caminos más seguros por los cuales los migrantes tradicionalmente habían entrado a los Estados Unidos desde Latinoamérica. La teoría llevada a cabo en la frontera suroeste de los Estados Unidos fue que los migrantes evitarían áreas urbanas militarizadas, serían empujados a cruzar a través de aislados y peligrosos lugares de la frontera, especialmente a través del desierto de Sonora, algunos morirían y se pasaría la voz hasta llegar a las comunidades de Latinoamérica, y los migrantes pararían de intentar cruzar. Esto fue implementado como una parte de la política de “impedimento.” En adición, muchos migrantes reportaron rutinariamente ser sujetos a tratamiento cruel y humillante a manos de oficiales fronterizos. Notamos que más allá de la militarización de la frontera Estados Unidos – México ha sido parte de cada plan para las “reformas integrales de migración” que ha traído antes el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en años recientes.

La razón por la cual los migrantes cruzan ilegalmente arriesgando su dignidad, su propiedad y sus vidas es porque los Estados Unidos no les permite cruzar legalmente. Estados Unidos tiene dos sistemas de entrada legales. Uno para Canadienses y Europeos del Oeste quienes pudieran cruzar la frontera de Estados Unidos únicamente con un pasaporte, otro es para latinoamericanos, africanos y asiáticos quienes deben tener una visa adherida a su pasaporte. Esta gente debe calificar demostrando que ellos tienen ambos dinero y un título de propiedad para poder cruzar nuestra frontera legalmente.

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

La excepción a la prohibición de los Estados Unidos a personas pobres e indígenas es la H2A o H2B visa para trabajadores temporales. Sin embargo el Centro Sureño de Leyes para la Pobreza (SPLC) ha aclarado que el Programa de los Trabajadores Temporales esta “cerca de la esclavitud” como su reporte en la visa fue titulado. La visa legalmente somete al trabajador al empleador que lo importa. El trabajador no puede legalmente dejar al empleador aún cuando el trabajador es abusado. El SPLC describe con precisión que el programa es como “servidumbre por contrato” y “trata de personas.”

Hemos notado que la mayor extensión de visas para trabajadores temporales ha sido parte de cada plan para la “reforma integral de migración” que ha traído antes el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en años recientes.

Los números desproporcionados de aquellos que son forzados a abandonar sus tierras a consecuencia de los tratados de libre comercio y sus políticas pertenecen a la gente indígena.

Muchos observadores señalan que pueblos enteros en las zonas indígenas son ahora ciudades fantasmas o ciudades pobladas solamente por mujeres jóvenes, niños y ancianos.
Los estudios indican que un número desproporcionado de los cuerpos de migrantes recuperados en el desierto de Sonora provienen de las zonas indígenas del sur de México y Guatemala, por ejemplo.

También notamos que el requisito de tener un título de propiedad no es válido para los indígenas que viven en tierras comunitarias siendo esto es un impedimento para venir a los Estados Unidos legalmente.

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Millones de personas han sido desplazadas en América Latina, en particular debido a las políticas económicas de los Estados Unidos, especialmente el TLCAN. Los Estados Unidos y demás signatarios, Canadá y México, claramente sabían de esto cuando se firmó el tratado. Este conocimiento previo se indica tanto en el tratado como en la Estrategia Fronteriza del Suroeste. Ahora millones de estas personas desplazadas se encuentran en los Estados Unidos.

Ellos viven bajo la constante amenaza de deportación. Notamos que aproximadamente 1.5 millones de personas fueron deportadas durante la primera administración del Presidente Obama. El Congreso de los Estados Unidos ha autorizado un fondo monetario para deportar 400,000 personas al año, y para hacer esto ha incrementado el fondo monetario para el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional.

Los Estados Unidos también tienen un creciente interés de lucro en su sistema penitenciario con lo que está haciendo enormes sumas de dinero de las deportaciones. El fuertemente financiado sistema de deportación causa un gran sufrimiento a aquellos que son deportados. Además se están desintegrando familias Estadounidenses al ser deportados los cónyuges y los niños son separados de sus familiares que muchas veces son ciudadanos estadounidenses. Esto además ha forzado que miles de ciudadanos vayan al exilio, cónyuges e hijos que siguen a sus deportados o de otra forma esperar el regreso de sus seres queridos repatriados. Muchos de estos ciudadanos americanos en el exilio se convirtieron en aquellos que viven sin ningún estatus legal en el país natal de sus seres queridos. Las barreras legales que enfrentan cónyuges e hijos de aquellos que han sido deportados dejan a muchos sin ninguna esperanza de vivir en algún lugar legalmente como familias.

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

En suma, a muchos les es negado el debido proceso garantizado por la 14ª Enmienda a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos y son sometidos a discriminación racial y étnica, detención por meses sin cargos, audiencias secretas y “racionalizados” procesos judiciales, de los cuales la Operación Streamline de Arizona es un ejemplo de ello.

Trabajadores en los Estados Unidos, México y otros lugares cada vez más están siendo sometidos a un nivel de presión que van desde el “derecho a trabajar” y leyes para criminales, lo cual hace más difícil para ellos negociar colectivamente afectando así otros medios para conseguir salarios justos, buenas condiciones de trabajo y beneficios.
Trabajadores no autorizados son victimizados por prácticas abusivas que incluyen redadas en los lugares de trabajo y sistemas electrónicos legales de verificación de empleo [e-verify].

Una importante amenaza a la vida de migrantes e inmigrantes incluyendo niños en los Estados Unidos es la aprobación de la Responsabilidad Personal y Oportunidad de Trabajo y Ley de Reconciliación (PRWORA) en 1996. Señalando que había “un urgente interés del gobierno para eliminar el incentivo para la migración ilegal proveído por la disponibilidad de beneficios públicos”, por primera vez, la ley de 1996 vinculó la elegibilidad de los inmigrantes legales para recibir Medicaid de acuerdo al tiempo de residencia en los Estados Unidos. Estas restricciones, además aplicaban los Programas Estatales de Aseguranza para Salud de los Niños (SCHIP), el cual fue establecido en 1997. PRWORA y SCHIP abarcaron la mayoría de los inmigrantes, incluyendo residentes permanentes legales y a otros migrantes los restringieron a cinco años para su elegibilidad.

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Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Conclusión:
Lo que nosotros vemos en esencia es el crecimiento del número de personas prácticamente sin nacionalidad, quienes no tienen el significado de ciudadanía en ningún lugar, los esfuerzos para protegerse ellos mismos, sus familias y sus maneras de vivir les están siendo arrancados sistemáticamente. Derechos humanos fundamentales incluyendo el derecho a vivir, libertad y la búsqueda de la felicidad, les son prácticamente arrebatados. Derechos humanos fundamentales incluyendo el más específico derecho al significado de nacionalidad, a cambiar de nacionalidad, a mantener una identidad étnica, a cruzar fronteras legalmente, a no ser tomados como esclavos, a no ser sujetos a tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes, a no ser sujetos a arrestos arbitrarios, detención o exilio, de no ser privado de propiedad, de tener una propiedad colectivamente o individualmente, de tener la libertad a tener un empleo y favorables condiciones de trabajo, el derecho a pago equitativo por trabajo equitativo, el derecho de formar y de unirse a sindicatos, y el derecho a procesos justos que están siendo negados por el sistema. Hemos notado también, que cuando esos derechos son rechazados por acuerdo internacional a personas que estaban tituladas a esos derechos, les fueron negados sus derechos a compensación.

Plan de Enmienda:
Nosotros proponemos el siguiente Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes.
En particular, pedimos que las muertes de migrantes a lo largo de la frontera Estados Unidos –México paren inmediatamente.

1.- Crear una económica y rápida obtención de visas que permita a la gente, incluyendo a las personas de bajos recursos, personas indígenas que vivan y posean tierras comunitarias sin importar sus conocimientos o perspectivas de salario, venir los Estados Unidos de Latinoamérica, África y Asia.

2.- Desmilitarizar la frontera de Estados Unidos-México.

3.- Detener las deportaciones hasta que estas puedan ser desligadas del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, de la industria de prisiones con fines de lucro y de cuotas.

4.- Abolir el H2A/H2B Programa de Trabajadores Temporales.

5.- Detener la firma y aplicación de los tratados de libre comercio y retroceder en aquellas partes que están en vigor actualmente.

6.- Restaurar procesos justos.

7.- Crear un estatus legal para personas sin estatus legal en la actualidad en los Estados Unidos, incluyendo pero no limitando a su vez un camino a la ciudadanía.

8.- Ayudar a los indígenas a recuperar las tierras que tradicionalmente les han pertenecido en Latinoamérica y la repatriación a esas tierras a aquellos que lo deseen.

9.- Fortalecer el derecho al trabajador local, extranjero y transnacional para organizarse y negociar colectivamente (sindicalización).

10.- Levantar las barreras legales que han sido impuestas a los deportados y habilitar el regreso de repatriados a los Estados Unidos, barreras que seguido obstaculizan a cónyuges e hijos de ciudadanos americanos su derecho a regresar.

11.- Proveer de una remuneración a las familias con ciudadanía americana de deportados para cubrir los gastos relacionados al dejar los países a los cuales ellos hayan sido exiliados.

12.- Desbloquear las barreras para los migrantes e inmigrantes para la elegibilidad a Medicaid y SCHIP.

Elaborado por:
Ellin Jimmerson, Huntsville, AL, EE. UU. , 12 de Enero del 2013.
Traducico por Adryana Luna, Winnipeg, CAN

Firmado por:
Ellin Jimmerson, The Huntsville Immigration Initiative, Huntsville, Alabama.

Why Melissa Hillman’s Privilege Argument Was Backwards

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Hillary Clinton

A recent article by Melissa Hillman for Quartz created a stir among loyalists in Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s camp. Hillman insisted that “privilege is what allows Sanders supporters to say they’ll ‘never’ vote for Clinton under any circumstance.”

That is inaccurate. There are those who are well outside the ranks of privilege who will not vote for Clinton. Period.

Quartz, a digital global business news publication culls its 150 writers from conservative business journals including Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, as well as the New York Times. Its core market is global business people who want international markets. In other words, they are among the market oriented neoliberals where Clinton finds many of her supporters.

The truth is that there are those who will not vote for Clinton precisely because of their lack of privilege or because of their work among those who lack the kind of extraordinary privilege Quartz readers have or aspire to have.

One is Luis Efrain Serrano, an illegal (the term he prefers) Latino and an activist with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] Out Of LA in Los Angeles. The organization exists to end deportations and the criminalization of illegal immigrants. He believes the privilege argument is backwards.

People are voting for Clinton, Serrano believes, “because of their privilege. Wealthy or middle class white folks would not be as negatively affected by her as those of us who are less privileged.”  The Democrats “give us weird little reforms like DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] which help us out a bit. We are ok with them only because things are so bad.”

Ultimately, Serrano wants systemic change. Although he does not support Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, Serrano believes a Trump election could aid in forcing the collapse of the establishment. He believes Trump has shaken “the neoliberal establishment which Clinton represents because he exposes an economic system that they have kept hidden.” Reality is that the Clinton establishment, in Serrano’s opinion, has “perfected keeping people oppressed and distracted.” Trump has brought that into the open.

Serrano concludes, “for those without privilege, there is no strategy in electing Clinton.”

Zac Henson is a self-proclaimed “mad redneck” with a Ph. D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management but who makes his living delivering papers and driving for Uber in East Lake, Alabama.

Henson, too, is concerned about the political system. He also wants to challenge individualized ideas of what constitutes oppression or privilege. No one, is all oppressor or all oppressed,” he thinks. Instead, he believes, we need to talk more about “multiple overarching systems of power.” For instance, he says, “I’m white and male, so there are certainly advantages that I have in certain situations. But, I’m also mentally ill, working class, and Southern, so there are disadvantages that I have to deal with too.”

As for the election, Henson’s identities and philosophies slide between Clinton and Trump. Like Clinton, he believes in multiculturalism and diversity. But like Trump, he opposes economic globalization. He believes each has been engaged in an all-out war on the working class from both the left and the right. Partly because of Clinton’s neoliberalism, and the neoliberalism of the Democratic establishment, the white working class “literally has no place else to go but to Trump, which is both worrisome and sad.”

Trump, however, “is a monster arising in a cauldron of white working class rage and a generation of abandonment of the white working class by the left.” Because of the war on the working class, “people are frustrated, mad, and confused. It seems as if the American Dream is a distant memory.”

Even someone like me, he says, “who is a community organizer, an antiracist, a feminist, and a communist can see Trump’s appeal to people who are just desperate. So, I’ll probably just vote for Jill Stein, even though I know that it’s a throw away vote. Not much of a choice, if you ask me.”

Jorge Mújica Murias is the Strategic Campaigns Organizer at Arise Chicago, an organization devoted to combatting worker injustice. A Latino, he ran for Congress as a candidate for Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District in 2009 and for Alderman for the City of Chicago in 2015. A socialist, he supports Jill Stein of the Green Party.

“My reason for not supporting Clinton is simple,” Mújica says. “I want to do away with the two-party system.”

He wants to see the Democratic Party split. “I want to help give a solid third party status to the Green Party. I don’t want people re-electing Hillary in 2020 because Ted Cruz runs against her nor do I want to see Chelsea Clinton running against Trump. Giving a solid third party status to the Green Party might open up the system.” Just as he would like to see the Democratic Party split, Mújica continues, “I would have hoped to see the Republicans splitting and founding a third party, the Tea Party. That is not going to happen apparently. But we can make it happen in the Democratic party if people will not cave in and vote for Clinton.”

Pippa Abston is a pediatrician in Huntsville, Alabama. She counts herself among the privileged in no small measure because she has health insurance. She tends daily to people, however, who do not – and she cares about them.

Based in large part on what she has seen in her practice, she believes that those who already lack political and socioeconomic privilege would be placed at higher risk in a Clinton presidency.

Clinton, she believes, “has ignored the need to insure every single person in the US for healthcare and has accepted President Obama’s incremental approach with the Affordable Care Act [ACA].” The ACA, according to Abston, is unethical because it leaves out some already marginalized groups. Those groups include poor adults in those states like Alabama which does not allow them access to Medicaid, undocumented immigrants, documented immigrants because of a five year waiting period, and those who live just above the poverty line but cannot afford insurance even with the ACA.

An ethical person, Abston says, “would not find it acceptable to leave anyone out.” Clinton, on the other hand, is “a utilitarian who is able to abstract human beings into numbers and treat them interchangeably, trading out some lives for others. This is not ethically acceptable to me.” Because she sees children and their parents every day in her office, she says, “I can’t possibly forget what they need and I can’t possibly vote for Clinton who could put them at risk.”

As are Serrano, Henson, and Mújica, Abston is concerned about the entire political system. Clinton, she says, represents a political philosophy, neoliberalism, which she finds “abhorrent.”

It is an “imposter on the left” but it is not truly leftist, because it “transfers power and representation even further away from the public sphere into the oligarchy, and then tells the powerless that they can lift themselves up if they try harder.”

By occupying the left as an imposter, Abston says, the neoliberal wing prevents the development of a true left, a true democratic movement “by convincing supporters it is the left they are seeking, that it cares about them, but it does not. I find this even more repugnant than the right wing, which is at least moderately honest about its nefarious intentions.”

Like Abston, I, too am a person of multiple privileges. I am white, upper middle class, and enjoy a high social status. I am a Ph. D. historian, liberation theologian, ordained Baptist minister, and film maker. Much of my professional life consists of advocacy for illegal immigrants, domestic labor, and guest workers in the US legally with an H2 visa.

Free trade agreements are closely associated with the displacement of the millions of Latinos who are in the US illegally as well as with the creation of a billionaire class in Mexico and elsewhere. Free trade agreements and neoliberal economic policies generally are a priority issue for me.

Although Clinton has recently distanced herself from the looming Trans Pacific Partnership, in the past she has applauded it as the “gold standard” of trade agreements.

Trade agreements favor the well being of corporations over that of human beings. They are in large part about the creation of “investor states” which legally transfer local, state, and national sovereignty to corporations which may sue governments which act to adversely affect, or threaten to adversely affect, corporations’ profits. This includes such things as labor regulations, environmental efforts, and regulations over pharmaceutical businesses.

Clinton has waffled on free trade agreements. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Dr. Jill Stein, on the other hand, consistently have opposed them.

Each seems to understand that the agreements are not really about trade — they certainly are not about the creation of a multicultural “global village” — they are about the offshoring of national sovereignty and the creation of a new legal framework to create and protect new, sinister investor states. They are about displacing more and more vulnerable peoples around the world and making it next to impossible for the rest of us to do anything about it. I have written more on the sovereignty problems with free trade agreements here.

This article is based on anecdotal evidence, of course, as was Melissa Hillman’s. But it should go some distance in demonstrating that she is wrong about privilege being the reason for people on the left opposing Clinton. Instead, the reasons for many of us include deep concerns about America’s working class, the current failure of the two-party system to address systemic economic problems, and neoliberal economic policies. Many of us have concluded that Clinton is not only a poor choice to lead America, she is downright dangerous for all of us.

The Panama Papers, Free Trade, and the Offshoring of National Sovereignty

panamapapers02As the Panama Papers are rolled out, many are wondering how they connect to the Panama Free Trade Agreement, technically called the Panama United States Trade Promotion Agreement.

It is far too soon to know what exactly the content, meanings, implications, and ramifications of the Panama Papers are. What we can say with certainty, however, is that trade agreements are not all about trade. At least not in the sense that most of us think when we hear the word “trade”. For example, in everyday life I might trade you a batch of homemade cookies for your help with my computer. So we apply that concept to trade at the national level. Mexico provides the United States with tequila and we provide Mexico with Jack Daniels. Americans get margaritas; Mexicans get whiskey sours. Seems like a win-win, right?

It is just not that simple.

Free trade is about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It is about the displacement of peoples and about the offshoring of both jobs and national sovereignty. It is about creating “investor state treaties” with extra-national legally binding means to protect corporations and their investors from such things as local environmental protections.

As the Panama Papers seem destined to prove, they also are about offshoring the profits via tax havens which should have been turned into taxes to benefit the rest of us.

As we learned with the North American Free Trade Agreement, what was really going on was what was called the “opening of markets”. How does the US’s Archer Daniels Midland [ADM], for example, a heavily subsidized, gargantuan producer of factory farmed corn, open up a market in Mexico? By taking the market away from Mexico’s often indigenous “people of the corn”.

As you can see in this video, corn is a staple of the Mexican diet, Mexican culture, and the peasant Mexican economy. There was no shortage of people wanting to produce corn in Mexico. So, to open up that market, the tariffs that ADM had to pay to export its corn to Mexico, were removed. That means that by removing the tariffs, protections for the indigenous Mexican farmer, ADM was put into direct competition with peasant farmers in Mexico’s heavily indigenous, southern state of Chiapas, for example. This is what made the trade “free”. It was unobstructed by tariffs.

But, there was more to it than that. As a prerequisite for Mexico being able to enter into the NAFTA, it had to remove the subsidies it had long provided it’s peasant corn farmers, subsidies which had helped them stay on their lands and maintain their economy and their culture. However, subsidies paid to US factory producers of corn were not removed. Instead, subsidies to them increased. According to the Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidies Database, between 2005 and 2012 US factory corn producers received $84.4 billion in subsidies.

In a simplified nutshell, NAFTA created about 10 Mexican billionaires while it pushed 1 1/2 to 2 million peasant farmers off their lands and into migration including illegal immigration into the US.

NAFTA also was about the offshoring of good paying jobs in the United States. It, along with previous agreements, created a “maquiladora” zone in Mexico which took advantage of displaced farmers and others. Maquiladoras, or “maquilas” as they are often known, are factories. They are owned by US companies, for example, which export their parts and equipment for assembly, processing, or manufacturing in Mexico. The parts and equipment are exported without the paying of tariffs. The product is made by Mexican workers often making no more than $5.00 a day and with very little in the way of safety regulations or recompense for injuries sustained on the job. The products then are exported back to the US, tariff free, and sold to consumers at artificially low prices.

Of course, there had been Americans making those products before and often had received good pay and benefits. Those jobs were taken from them; they did not walk away from them.

It does not take a Ph.D. in economics to understand what was going on. The rich were made richer and the poor were made poorer. My film, The Second Cooler, helps explain the relationship between NAFTA, the displacement of indigenous peasant farmers in Mexico, and the offshoring of US jobs. 

NAFTA and other free trade agreements, or FTAs, were also about the offshoring of national sovereignty. The offshoring of national sovereignty is not unprecedented. The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, was established in 1945 in The Hague, to settle legal disputes submitted to it by member states. It was in the World Court, for example, that Nicaragua successfully sued the United States over the bombing of its harbors and buzzing of its cities during the Reagan sponsored Contra counter-revolution.

The International Criminal Court, established in 2002, created an international jurisdiction and a means by which individuals could be prosecuted for such crimes as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Both these agencies were formed to protect nations and peoples. But NAFTA and other FTAs, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership offshored national sovereignty in a new way and with a new purpose: the protection of investors and corporations. It is for this reason that NAFTA is often said to be an “investor state treaty”. It is not just about tariffs, subsidies, and the movement of traded materials and products. It is about the creation of an international court system which transfers sovereignty from local, state, and national governments to a NAFTA panel of decision makers when legal disputes arise.

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NAFTA Symbol

Chapter 11 of NAFTA describes a means for “investor state dispute settlement”. It allows corporations to sue the United States, Mexico, or Canada, the NAFTA member states, for compensation when actions by their governments damage their sales or profits. Several Canadian groups have challenged the constitutionality of Chapter 11, but lost at the trial level.

For example, Methanex, a Canadian corporation, filed a US $ 970 million suit against the US. It claimed that a California ban on Methyl tert-butyl ether [MTBE], which had gotten into California’s wells, had hurt Methanex’s sales of methanol. In this case, the NAFTA panel found in favor of the US and Canada had to pay court costs.

But in another case, Mexico had to pay Metaclad, a California based US corporation, $15.6 million after a Mexican municipality refused a construction permit for a hazardous waste landfill Metaclad wanted to construct in San Luis Potosí. In Metaclad Corp. v. United States, the NAFTA panel ruled that the municipality of San Luis Potosí did not have the authority to ban construction on the basis of environmental concerns.

Apotex, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, is suing the US for $520 million because it says that a Food and Drug Administration generic drug decision harmed its “opportunity” at sales and profits.

Lone Pine Resources, Inc., which is incorporated in Delaware but headquartered in Calgary, Canada, is an oil and gas exploration, development, and production company. It has filed a US $250 million claim against Canada because Canada wants to prevent fracking exploration under the St. Lawrence Seaway. The lawyer for Lone Pine Resources accurately refers to NAFTA as an “investor protection treaty”.

The World Trade Organization [WTO] was organized in 1995 — 3 years after the signing of NAFTA and months after NAFTA began to be implemented in 1994. There are 162 member states. It provides a framework for negotiating further trade agreements and a means by which disputes can be resolved.

The aim of the WTO is to enforce participants’ adherence to WTO agreements.

The Panama Free Trade Agreement, which President Obama signed in 2011, not only was about eliminating tariffs and about consolidating access to goods and services. It was about favoring private investment in and between the United States and Panama.

I won’t pretend to have looked at the Panama Agreement as closely as I have the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements. But my research has yielded this: in addition to trade and other economic issues, it had to do with intellectual property, labor, and environmental policies, among others. Among the primary criticisms of the agreement, for example, has been its effect on copyright laws which have served to infringe upon free speech. Again, what we are seeing is about much more than trade.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] is now creating a new “investor state system”. The signatory nations are the United States, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. This is the agreement which President Obama has promoted and for which he received “fast track” authorization. That means the ability to negotiate in secret.

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Lori Wallach

Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, has described the TPP as “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate Trojan Horse”. You can listen to an interview by Amy Goodman with her for Democracy Now! here. Wallach, Gretchen Morgenson, and other trade policy analysts emphasize that these trade deals have less to do with trade than with the offshoring of national sovereignty to international corporations.

One of the primary concerns has to do with the erosion of the right of the US Congress and state legislatures to enact public interest policies prohibited in these pacts.

If the TPP goes into effect, existing agreements like NAFTA will be reduced, they say, to those provisions which do not conflict with the TPP. As with NAFTA and other trade agreements, the TPP would create an extra-national judicial system designed to protect corporations and their investors. It would give them the right to attack US financial regulations in front of tribunals composed of three private sector attorneys. Those attorneys would operate under World Bank and United Nations rules of arbitration.

In other words, the “investor state system” with its own judicial apparatus allows corporations to bypass US courts and laws and to sue American governments for money damages over any regulatory efforts the corporations say undermine not only their current profits but their “expected future profits”. Among the TPP nations, there already are cross-registered 11,933 corporations.

Here are a two examples of what already is happening. Chevron is using an “investor state” tribunal to try to avoid paying $18 billion — that’s billion — to clean up contamination is caused to the Amazon River. This fine was ordered after 18 years of litigation and rulings in courts in Ecuador and the US. Philip Morris is using it to attack Australian and Uruguayan plain packaging laws for cigarettes.

Already governments have paid more than $675 million to corporations under these “investor state” provisions. Seventy percent of them have been for non-trade policies including environmental and health policies.

You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to understand who the primary beneficiaries of this system are. You don’t have to have a JD [Juris Doctorate] to figure out how difficult it could become for state and nations to have the legal ability to enforce environmental, financial, and other public interest regulations. I, for one, am waiting to see exactly what all the Panama Papers will reveal. It seems apparent they will reveal an insatiable appetite among the wealthiest of the wealthy for ever more wealth at the expense of the 99%. They also will reveal a clear connection, if my prediction is correct, to free trade agreements and the the offshoring of national sovereignty to a global “investor state” which protects the interests of the globalized 1% class and which makes it legally difficult to do anything about it.

 

How Nuns On The Bus Get It Wrong On Immigration Reform

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Border Wall, by Guadalupe Serrano. Used with permission.

Like Sr. Simone Campbell I am a clergy woman. I also am a full time advocate for illegal immigrants, guest workers in the US legally with an H2 visa, and domestic labor. She is a lawyer; I am a historian. I am a film maker whose migrant justice documentary, The Second Cooler, narrated by Martin Sheen, has won awards on the festival circuit. I have won awards for humanitarianism. Sr. Campbell has been praised by Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, and Bill Moyers and has become the subject of a documentary in the making, Nuns on the Bus, directed by Sundance Award-winning film maker, Mellisa Regan.

It would appear we have much in common. In fact, we are miles apart when it comes to both a starting point for and an analysis of immigration reform. Sr. Simone promotes S. 744, the so-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill which passed in the Senate but failed in the House last year [2013]. I vehemently oppose it.

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Photo by Bill Schweikert for the Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC. As seen in The Second Cooler.

Her vocational starting point appears to be that clergy people must negotiate with power and accept the parameters established by military contractors, corporate employers, the for-profit prison industry, big, well-funded activist groups, and confused politicians. My starting point is that clergy must tell truth to power. We must say “No!” to Caesar and the national security state, not become apologists for them.

More importantly, Sr. Simone does not appear to understand the content of the bill. It is in no way a good bill stymied by Republicans on the wrong side of history. It is far from being a bill which would offer immigrants a reasonable “path to citizenship” or stop deportations. This is, however, precisely the message she conveys. As the subtitle of her article which appeared in faithstreet.com on May 9 puts it, “Because Congress has failed to pass immigration reform, mothers will be separated from their children throughout America this Mother’s Day.”

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Photo by Mizue Aizeki. Used with permission.

Reality is that the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act would, if passed, make a bad situation much worse. It calls for further militarization of the US / MEX border which inevitably will put more pressure on border communities, environmental systems, and migrants. Deaths will increase. It will expand the consignment of poor foreign workers to indentured servitude by expanding the inherently abusive and highly exploitive Guest Worker program, a program which has been condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being “Close to Slavery.” The program inevitably will work to the advantage of employers and to the disadvantage of domestic and foreign laborers.

Militarization and guest worker visas are not incidentals hovering around the edges of a “pathway to citizenship” bill. They are the keystones of the bill. Deportation? Not even addressed in the bill which should surprise no one since the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the two powerful for-profit prison corporations which have contracts with the Federal government to fill their beds with immigration detainees are helping pay for the bill. And that “path to citizenship?” To the degree that it exists at all, it is a punitive, 13 year long path which cannot be begun until after the border is fully militarized and it is so filled with fees and exceptions that those who live long enough to start out on the path will never make it to the end. Surely, even those inured to the rough and tumble of politics should agree that it is a poor exchange for other people’s lives and other people’s servitude.

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Border Wall art installation, by No More Deaths.

When I wrote Sr. Simone a letter last July [2013] encouraging her to reconsider her position on S. 744 she replied, “if you have a magic wand, please use it.” I have no magic wand.

What I do have is an ability to speak truth to power and propose justice alternatives. Instead of expanding militarization and increasing migrant deaths, we should de-militarize the border. We should create a visa allowing poor people without significant amounts of money and title to land to come to the US legally. We should abolish the Guest Worker visa. We should immediately confer a legal status on those without it. We should halt deportations altogether until they can be detached from the Department of Homeland Security and the for-profit prison system. We can support a good alternative to S. 744 which already exists, the American Families United Act, HR 3431.

In other words, we clergy can insist on justice not deals.

This article originally appeared in The God Article, with Mark Sandlin on Patheos.com on May 19, 2014.

Why “Don’t Say ‘Illegal Immigrant'” Is a Problem

thLast month [June, 2014], as Americans focused attention on Central American child refugees, Benjamin L. Corey’s June, 2013 article, “Why We Need To Stop Using The Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’”, appeared on my Facebook feed. In it, Corey said using the term “illegal immigrant” was to bear false witness against our neighbor.

I am a Baptist minister and film maker who advocates for illegal immigrants, guest workers in the US legally with a visa, and domestic labor. With enormous respect for those concerned about the term, I want to suggest there are bigger issues which are obscured, keeping us from bearing witness on our neighbor’s behalf, when we hesitate to use it.

First, crossing US borders without permission is a crime — a legal wrong doing. There are two classes of crimes–misdemeanors and felonies. Crossing “without inspection”, to use the legal term, is a misdemeanor the first time. But it is a felony when one returns, voluntarily or involuntarily, to his home country and re-enters illegally. Whether a misdemeanor or felony, because of Federal agreements with the for-profit prison industry, the crime of crossing illegally is costing 400,000 people a year their property and their families. The punishment is far out of proportion to the crime. Christians must bear witness to this.

Second, under current law, crossing our southern border illegally, whether as a misdemeanor or a felony, is a crime sometimes leading to loss of life without due process–without arrest, charge, representation, judge, or jury. Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] in 1992, in an effort to control the movements of laborers it knew it was displacing, the Federal government began knowingly sending illegal immigrants to their deaths via border militarization.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Southwestern Border Strategy, devised after the passing of NAFTA, included closing off the relatively safe, urban crossing areas, such as that at Nogales, Arizona, to force migrants into the vast Sonora Desert. A limited number of migrants would die, according to the Strategy, and word would to get back to Mexican communities where those deaths would become “a deterrent” to others contemplating coming. To date, at least 5,000 migrants have been sent to their deaths in the Pacific Ocean and the Rio Grande, as well as the Sonora Desert. Using death as a deterrent to crime rather than as a punishment for crime is a significant moral problem and a significant international law problem. Christians need to bear witness to this.

In addition, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a particular class of human beings–in this case unauthorized laborers–became branded as a threat to national security. They themselves, not simply their actions in crossing our border without inspection, have been identified as a threat to national security. Despite the famous saying that “no human being is illegal,” identifying any class of persons, whether Jews in Germany or homosexuals in Uganda or illegal immigrants in the US, as a threat to national security so severe that it warrants taking their life from them is the essence of making human beings illegal. Christians need to bear witness to this.

Third, the word “undocumented” falsely implies there are documents to be had. It indicates that for some reason migrants chose not to come “the right way”. In fact, there is no way for people without title to land or large amounts of money to cross our borders legally if they are from Latin America, Africa, or most parts of Asia. The word “undocumented” functions to obscure the fact that the US has two racially, socially, and ethnically encoded legal entry systems. The system for these areas blocks, before the process begins, all indigenous people and all poor people from entering legally. Christians need to bear witness to this.

Fourth, sensitivity over the term did not originate with migrants. It originated with immigration advocacy insiders. Illegal immigrants often refer to themselves as “illegals”. So do their loved ones. In the days following the passage of HB 56, Alabama’s notorious anti-immigrant law, I listened to a woman in Alabama who had driven 3 hours to address a gathering at the Capitol building in Montgomery. She said, “My name is Rebecca. I’m married to an illegal. I worry every day that he won’t come home.” The translator corrected her. “My name is Rebecca,” he said, “and I’m married to an undocumented man.” It is a problem betraying a lack of respect for illegal immigrants when advocates talk down to, and become suspicious of, the very people they say they are advocating for.

By the same token, I have been in situations where I was afraid for my safety because volatile militiamen were present. I have heard them spewing venom against the “undocumented immigrants” they wanted to drive out of Alabama. As a shibboleth separating good guys from bad guys, “undocumented” simply doesn’t work.

Fifth, as renewed calls for “comprehensive immigration reform” gin up in light of the child refugee crisis, advocate generated suspicion of the term has helped grant moral high ground, and undeserved reliability, to those same advocacy groups which are relentlessly promoting a particular piece of legislation–S. 744. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is a sinister bill moving the entire system to the far political right. Instead of focusing on the defeat of a term, Christians must begin, and quickly, to rally defeat of this bill which would send proportionately thousands more to their deaths by completing the militarization of our southern border, ear mark Hispanics in particular for servitude by drastically expanding the guest worker program, and funnel everyone in the US illegally into the deportation machine. Christians need to bear witness to this.

Surely, in our desire to do right by those in the US illegally, we can do better than focusing on these two words while obscuring real life and death issues. Christian witness insists on it. Justice depends on it.

This article originally appeared in Patheos on August 25, 2014.

Comparing Politicians to Christ: Facts, Please

 

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Dr. Russell Moore

It is not often that Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC], and I agree. He opposes same sex marriage and abortion, for example. I support same sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose. When I officiated at Madison County, Alabama’s first same sex wedding, that started a chain of events that led to the church with which I am associated to be “disfellowshipped” by the SBC. Typically, Moore and I do not agree on much.

However, prominent Christian pastors on both the left and right have publicly supported their favorite politicians – comparing them to Christ. Here is where Moore and I agree – if you are going to compare a politician to Christ, you need to back up your comparison with facts.

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Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Several days ago, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University endorsed Donald Trump. He gushed, “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment”.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Moore demonstrated that Falwell’s praise is at odds with the facts of Trump’s life. He wrote,

[Trump] revels in the fact that he gets to sleep with some of the ‘top women in the world’ [and that Trump] is a casino and real estate mogul who has built his careers off gambling, a moral vice and an economic swindle that oppresses the poorest and most desperate. When Mr. Trump’s casinos fail, he can simply file bankruptcy and move on. The lives and families destroyed by the casino industry cannot move on so easily.

Similarly, Michael Brown, a Messianic Jew and conservative host of the popular radio show, The Line Of Fire, wrote this op-ed for the Christian Post. In it he quoted a colleague:

I just don’t understand how a true Christian can so easily dismiss all this … wife posed nude, married three times, nasty, crude, cruel, proud, dishonest, manipulative, casino owner and promoter, bankrupted several companies, ‘hates’ abortion but agrees to make it legal, gutter mouth … and on and on and on.

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Donald Trump

Citing Trump’s attacks on those he happens to dislike at the moment, Brown asks,

be it Megyn Kelly or Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush or Rosie O’Donnell – attacks in which he behaves more like a spoiled, petulant child than a presidential candidate, how [can Falwell] point to his Christ-like character?

In other words, Moore and Brown are addressing the facts of Trump’s life and career. These facts fly in the face of claims that Trump is the embodiment of Christ from a conservative Christian, personal morality point of view.

There are equally extravagant claims being made by progressive Christians. John Pavlovitz, a pastor and blogger with millions of followers, recently said in the Huffington Post that President Obama has “in effect out-Jesused many of his Conservative Christian critics”. Obama, he wrote, has “championed justice, equality, and the inherent dignity of all people in a way that closely resembles the stated mission of Christ”.

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Rev. John Pavlovitz

Among other claims, Pavlovitz said that Obama

has vigorously defended the civil rights of all human beings, has challenged us to be hospitable to refugees and immigrants, and has called out corporate lobbyists and big business special interests that have crippled the middle class and widened the income gap between the richest and poorest.

These claims are factually inaccurate if not downright preposterous. The most cursory glance at his policies should make that clear.

Despite his campaign promise, for example, Obama did not close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base where some prisoners have been held for decades without being charged. Among the detainees’ basic rights, which Obama has failed to champion in any meaningful way, are the rights of habeus corpus, a US and international principle providing the right to challenge the legality of one’s arrest, and the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution which provides the right to a “speedy and public trial”.

Then there is the matter of Obama’s foreign policy. Jeremy Scahill, a national security correspondent for The Nation and for Democracy Now!, traces the expansion of covert wars in countries ranging from Somalia to Pakistan. He says that

particularly in the Obama administration . . . . we’ve returned to the kind of 1980s way of waging war, where the US was involved in all these dirty wars in Central and Latin America, in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and beyond.

For example, he says, the US and Obama are “using proxies, that effectively are death squads, in Somalia to hunt down people the US has determined are enemies . . . . [and] mercenary forces in various wars, declared and undeclared, around the world.”

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King Hamad bin Isa Al Kahlifa

Similarly, Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, wrote “Obama’s Troubling Counterterrorism Allies: Dictators”. Hiatt detailed Obama’s alarming embrace of Syria’s Bashar-Al-Assad, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Kahlifa, and Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov. Hiatt calls Al-Assad the “bloodiest butcher of this young century”.

He goes on to say that Al-Sisi has “killed and imprisoned opponents with a brazenness Hosni Mubarak never dreamed of,” that when Al Kahlifa “cracks down on peaceful dissidents, the United States barely notices”, and that Karimov “presides over a closed society of prison camps and forced labor.”

As for being “hospitable to refugees and immigrants”, as Pavlovitz asserts, that has been anything but true of Obama with the exception of his recent welcome of Syrian refugees. Obama supports further militarizing the United States / Mexico border which was militarized to prohibit Mexicans and others displaced by the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] from coming to the US. Militarization has taken a minimum of 6,000 migrants’ lives.

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President Barack Obama

Obama has earned the derogatory nickname “Deporter in Chief” among Latinos because under him deportations sky-rocketed, ripping some 2.5 million people from their families. Deportations have left over 5,000 children stranded in foster care and forced other US citizens into exile to be with their deported husband or father. He has deported asylum-seeking Central Americans which has cost 83 their lives, according to London’s newspaper, The Guardian. And, according to the Washington Post, his administration failed to protect thousands of other Central American children, placing them in the hands of human traffickers or abusive caretakers in the U. S.

As for Pavlovitz’s claim that Obama has “called out corporate lobbyists and big business special interests” one needs only to look at his support for free trade agreements [FTAs] to know that is inaccurate. He signed FTAs with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and has been negotiating vigorously for the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP]. As I demonstrated in my film, The Second Cooler, NAFTA not only pushed some 2 million Mexican peasants off their lands and into migration, it allowed good-paying jobs in the United States to be sent overseas. Displacement of peoples is inherent to FTAs which push people off their lands and out of their jobs in order to fulfill the goal of “opening up markets.”

Economic researchers with Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute have projected that the TPP would likely lead to the loss of 448,000 US jobs and cause labor’s share of income to decline by 1.3%. This necessarily would increase the gap between rich and poor and widen inequality. The researchers found that while the US job market will suffer the most, the TPP would lead to 771,000 job losses over the next 10 years in the member nations.

FTAs, however, are about more than opening up markets, displacement of peoples, and the offshoring of good paying jobs. Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, has called trade deals “backdoor financial deregulation,” a “power tool to demolish financial stability policies,” and part of the establishment of an “investor-state” system. She concludes that the TPP and other FTAs are mainly about “new rights for corporations and new constraints on governments’ non-trade regulatory policy space”.

Gretchen Morgenson, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who writes about markets for the New York Times, voiced similar concerns. She wrote that “trade agreements might well be read as an invitation to fight financial regulation”. She points out that Ecuador in 2011 asked that World Trade Organization to allow it to preserve its ability to create regulations to ensure “the integrity and stability of the financial system”. But the proposal was rejected by trade representatives in the U. S., the European Union, and Canada.

You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to surmise that it is the middle class that suffers the most from these deals.

Christian pastors and bloggers have the right to endorse or support any candidate and any president they wish, but Russell Moore and I agree on this: when Christian leaders compare the president or a presidential hopeful to Christ, they must backup their claims with facts. We may disagree on which facts are or are not critical, but they must be backed up. Other people’s lives are hanging in the balance.

Illegal Immigration — Op-Ed for Mobile Press Register, 2008

I wrote this article in 2008. It was about this time that I began to get the idea of making a documentary about immigration.


“Illegal Immigration” (unedited version)

Mobile Press Register

March 3, 2008

300px-Wallace_at_University_of_Alabama_edit2The borderline has come to the colorline in Alabama and we are off to a bad start. There should be no people in the country better prepared to step up with empathy, courage and humility to the issue of illegal immigration. Our history of slavery, segregation and debt peonage should have brought us the insight that what is legal is not always right. Rosa Parks’ momentous decision should have etched on our collective psyche the profound understanding that what is illegal is not always wrong. Strong histories of the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiments and Birmingham in 1963 should have taught us to respect the complicatedness of race and class. The struggle to reverse our well-deserved reputation as a safe haven for demagogues should have made us leery of the politics of race, fear and confusion.

The borderline has come to the colorline in Alabama and we are off to a bad start. There is not a dime’s worth of difference between George Wallace vowing he would never be “out-niggraed” and Gardendale Rep. Scott Beason’s aggressive decision not to be “out-illegalled.” There is not a dime’s worth of difference between Wallace’s “segregation yesterday! segregation today! segregation tomorrow!” and local city councils proposing ordinances referring to a group of human beings as a “public nuisance.” There is not a dime’s worth of difference between the arrogance of “whites only” and “English only” nor between the current crop of vehicle impoundment ordinances and the old voter literacy laws designed to harass and humiliate.

The borderline has come to the colorline in Alabama and we are off to a bad start. The racial cast of characters has changed but the old, ugly vilifications have made a comeback. At a public meeting a black man rants he cannot rent his property because of Hispanics “running around half-naked.” A white, professional Hispanic with papers lords his supposedly Spanish descent over the poor, indigenous, undocumented Latinos in his church. A white woman with refined speech mannerisms dresses up her racist anti-Catholicism as concern for women. At the Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission’s (JIPIC) lynch mob-like Huntsville meeting, black and white police officers step into the crowd to protect a Latina attempting to speak up for illegal immigrants. At the JIPIC’s Hoover meeting, in words chillingly reminiscent of “Crucify him!” the mostly white crowd chants “deport them!” when a white minister attempts a “what would Jesus do?” mini-sermon.

We are at it again. We need to remember our history. We need to develop a working knowledge that U. S. history includes installing, supporting or colluding with Latin American dictators and their Mafia-like national guards and promoting economic “developmentalism” plans both of which, many historians conclude, have concentrated more and more wealth, land and power in the hands of fewer and fewer. We have been instrumental in creating the poverty pushing Latin Americans across our borders.

We need to develop a working knowledge of current “trickle down” developmentalist subsidies, tariffs and U. S. free trade agreements with Latin America. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a phased-in agreement signed by Canada, the U. S. and Mexico in 1992, was designed to make the countries safe for investors. That it may have done. Experts who look at economic policy from the perspective of workers and peasant farmers, however, conclude NAFTA has brought catastrophic suffering to already impoverished Mexico. For example, NAFTA’s lifting of export tariffs the big, subsidized U. S. producers of corn and beans had to pay allowed them to dump their products in Mexico well below the cost of production. The result has been, according to conservative estimates, the bankrupting of 1 ½ million small corn and bean farmers pushing them off their lands and into migration. Many of them are Native Americans pushed onto the latest leg of a hemispheric “Trail of Tears.”

Experts who look at economic policy from the perspective of small and medium Alabama farmers and ranchers conclude free trade agreements are also bringing economic suffering to Alabamians. Our once strong peanut producers are being hard-hit. Small and medium-sized Alabama beef ranchers, flower growers, tomato farmers and lumber mills are struggling to compete with cheap corporate-produced Argentine beef, Ecuadorian flowers, Mexican tomatoes and Canadian softwood.

And jobs? Fort Payne’s sock factories are in the Dominican Republic. In Huntsville, a Canadian-owned maquiladora, as low-end, foreign-owned assembly plants in Mexico are called, says it simply cannot operate without importing and abusing 900 human beings duplicitously referred to as “guest workers.” At the Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission’s “fact-finding” meeting in Mobile, shipyard, oyster company, and seafood company owners politely testify they simply cannot operate without that most vulnerable of all worker—the guest worker far from home, legally bound to the employer who imports them, who speaks little English and who has incurred thousands of dollars in debts to get here. Meanwhile, predominantly black Perry County languishes in eternal underemployment, poverty and neglect. And the Poarch Creek Indian reservation in Escambia County languishes in eternal underemployment, poverty and neglect.

The borderline has come to the colorline has come to the picket line in Alabama and those of us who advocate for legal and illegal migrants are also off to a shaky start. We have been quick to assume that if migrants are right, farm and trade unionists concerned about the adverse affect of “guestworkers” on U. S. workers’ wages and working conditions must be wrong. We are quick to assume that because blatantly racist Minutemen are wrong, polite corporate owners insisting they need more “guests” must be right. This despite the fact Montgomery’s Southern Poverty Law Center has called the H-2 guestworker program an “inherently abusive modern day system of indentured servitude.” We have been quick to lament the failure of the U. S. Congress’s proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill oblivious to its effort to extend this cruel system of “disposable workers” and to its proposed extension of the militarized border which since 2000 has sent 1,000 migrants to their deaths in Pima Co., AZ alone, including at least four little girls. We have been slow to be horrified by this new federal experiment which exchanges real peoples’ lives for hypothetical safety from hypothetical terrorists. The new noose.

The borderline has come to the colorline has come to the picket line in Alabama. This phase of our on-going civil rights struggle, as before, is about race, class, fear, small jobs and big money. It will be won when we insist on human dignity. We are in a struggle for our soul. It is going to be a long haul. It is not too late to get it right. Somewhere encoded deep in our DNA is the intuitive conviction that the politics of division is feeding a sinful socio-economic structure that is benefiting the few at the expense of the many. Somewhere deep in our DNA is the intuitive conviction that cruel, oppressive systems are bigger than the people, like slaves, segregated blacks, poor whites and illegal immigrants, caught up in them. We need to bring that deeply buried but nonetheless real intuition to the surface and allow it to work for us. Sí, se puede, Alabama. Eyes on the prize!

Ellin Sterne Jimmerson